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Last Friday night at dinner, I had a moment of weakness and ordered a new Samsung ChromeBook 550 with overnight Saturday delivery from Amazon(s amzn). Did I need the device? No. Do I have last year’s ChromeBook? Yes, in the form of a loaner device and I’ve been using it for a month.
So what was I thinking by plunking down $449 for yet another piece of hardware? I was intrigued by all of the upgrades over last year’s model in conjunction with the new ChromeOS (s goog) software updates and I wanted to see how much the experience is improved by new hardware. I should have these lapses in judgement more often because I’ve been having a blast with the new ChromeBook.
Here’s a brief video overview of the device itself, the specifications and few use cases and demos, including a quick Google Talk video call to my son. (I have to break up his Minecraft addiction every few hours or so with a distraction!)
Not for everyone, but opens your eyes beyond apps
Before I go on a little more about the experience, let me preface any “but it can’t run apps” or “I can’t do [INSERT ACTIVITY HERE]” comments by emphasizing a point from the video. Since we all have different needs, I’m not suggesting that a ChromeBook is the future of computing for everyone. Instead, I posit that it’s one future of computing. For some, this device won’t work, while for others, it can be a liberating tool.
How so? I’m finding that without any possibility of falling back to native or third-party apps, there’s a world of web activities I hadn’t found before. Obviously streaming a Netflix(s nflx) or YouTube video on the ChromeBook isn’t new, but I did find several fun games to play. (Get your Angry Birds here!) I sleuthed out some image-editing tools online, even though ChromeOS now has a basic photo editor as well as easy access to saved files. And I even found a way to use my 1Password app through the web.
It’s fast and has fewer distractions
Perhaps the best aspect: I can quickly get to work online — this boots and wakes faster than my MacBook Air(s aapl) — and not be pestered by app notifications. The ChromeBook lets me stay focused because it can’t run apps. If want notifications, I can enable some in my extensions; same as with an apps. I suppose I could just not run apps on a traditional computer to accomplish the same thing, but I still find it too tempting to have access to those apps. If I really want to cheat, I can use the Chrome Remote Desktop beta tool as shown in the video when I connect to my iMac from the ChromeBook.
So far, I’ve found the new ChromeBook to be highly portable, more fun than I imagined and much more capable over last year’s model. The extra memory and better processor yield a laptop-like experience without the extra baggage provided by a full desktop operating system. Again, if you want a full, traditional platform to use; don’t look here. But if you’re game to try a new experience — and your computing needs are mainly web-based; particularly with Google — then it’s time to try a ChromeBook.